MHRD IPR Chairs- The Anarchy and Hollow Attempt at Development of IPR in India

The current (non) working of the MHRD IPR Chairs is one of the many ways the country is holding back on development of IPR research and policy in the country. Ideally, this development must be fast-paced. However, the lackadaisical nature of the entire institution of these IP Chairs has become even more evident recently and unfortunately there has been very little (no?) development at all. In November, 2014, the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) carried a post highlighting how the entire institution is extremely opaque. This was followed by CIS sending RTI requests to various Universities, and recently, they have consolidated all the responses that they have received thus far. The picture is extremely disappointing for any IP enthusiast. This post discusses the responses that CIS received and other issues plaguing the MHRD IP Chairs.

The IPR Chairs were set up under the Scheme of Intellectual Property Education, Research and Public Outreach (IPERPO) of the MHRD.  These Chairs were created and instituted to encourage the study of IPR in recognized educational institutions. This is among one of many objectives sought to be achieved in instituting the Chairs. While this seems all well and good on paper, in practice there is very little that is being done and even less being achieved.

CIS draws back the curtains

In 2014 CIS carried a post briefly highlighting several drawbacks in the implementation of the Scheme. Drawing from the Evaluation Committee Report for the Planning Commission in 2013, the post noted that there are many positions left vacant since the Ministry is unable to find professors suitably qualified for the job. Additionally, since the projects that are undertaken by the Chairs are very short and intermittent, there is very little output in terms of research. After conducting a brief analysis of annual reports that some Universities had put up on their websites, CIS concluded that there is substantial amount of grant money that goes underutilized. CIS thereafter found a lack of information regarding the allocation of funds, expenditures and functioning of the Chairs. The MHRD website for IP Chairs is fairly useless in this regard. Universities too have no or incomplete annual reports regarding their expenditure. The conclusion of the 2013 Evaluation Committee Report was that the wide variation in allocation and utilization of funds was due to lack of suitable proposals for seminars, etc., non-receipt of requests for setting up of new Chairs, non-receipt of bills for grants, and, lack of continued attention to the Scheme. Since these details were not available online, CIS filed RTI requests with the concerned Universities.

Response to CIS’ RTI request

On Jan 31, 2015 CIS consolidated the responses that it received thus far. The enquiry was four pronged, requesting:

  1. Reports on the implementation of the Intellectual Property Education, Research and Public Outreach (IPERPO) scheme of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the implementation of the MHRD IPR Chair funded under the scheme in the Institutions from 2003 to 2014.
  2. Documents indicating the date on which such an IPR Chair was set up at the institution and a copy of the application made by the Institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development for instituting such an IPR Chair and documents received by the Institutions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development approving the same.
  3. Documents detailing the release of grants to the MHRD IPR Chairs under the IPERPO Scheme from 2003 to 2014.
  4. Documents relating to receipts of utilization certificates and audited expenditure statements and matters related to all financial sanctions with regard to funds granted to the MHRD IPR Chair established under the IPERPO scheme in the Institutions from 2003 to 2014.
  5. Documents regarding all matters pertaining to finance and budget related to the MHRD IPR Chair under the IPERPOs scheme established in the Institutions from 2003 to 2014.

The post notes that the information from Universities was varied despite identically phrased requests. Some Universities provided incomplete information, delayed the providing of information and even refused to provide information. Combined with a whole lot of unaccounted grants, this paints a rather sad picture of the institution of MHRD IP Chairs.

MHRD Website: Inactive

In addition to this, there are several other problems that the set-up faces. For instance, the website dedicated to the Scheme is quite uninformative. There is no list of conferences that have taken place. There is also no information regarding who the Chair in each University is. The portal has links to the Universities which currently house IPR Chairs – however, there is no further information apart from the basic profile of these Universities. Evidence of a lack of any activity on the website is blatant as time the ticker for News and Events seems to have been updated last in March, last year. Additionally, there has been no mention of the new Chairs that have been instituted in other Universities.

New (and Empty) Chairs

While Chairs around the country continue to remain empty, there seem to be more (non-MHRD) IPR Chairs being instituted. For instance, in Gujarat National Law University, the Gujarat Council on Science and Technology (GUJCOST) [under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat] instituted an IPR Chair in the University. This is in addition to the IPR Chair instituted last year funded by Microsoft. It’ll be interesting to see if these Chairs too face the problem of not finding professors to fill them.  As the 2013 Evaluation Committee Report notes, there are several MHRD IP Chairs that remain unfilled. While this may be owing to a difficulty in finding a specialist in IPR, one might also say that the enthusiasm to institute Chairs is misplaced; the bigger problem of lack of professionals has not received much attention from the Ministries, both at the level of States and at the Centre. Additionally, the lack of transparency on University websites regarding the professors who fill these chairs, and details of their work, makes it extremely difficult to determine how many functioning Chairs there are.

Indiscriminate Appointments and Relegations

Incidents that have received some limelight have been indiscriminate appointment and relegation of professors who hold Chairs. In particular, the unreasoned removals of Prof. N S Gopalakrishnan from the MHRD IP Chair at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), and Prof. Yogesh Pai from the MHRD IP Chair at National Law University, Jodhpur seem to have been arbitrary. Many have floated their opinion that these seemingly random appointments and relegations/ discharges are politically motivated. Notwithstanding the legitimacy of these claims, there is no reason for anything but well-reasoned out and clearly declared factors to play a role in education and research, and propagation thereof. There is also the additional issue of unnecessary delegation of power to the Universities. If the Ministry has set up these Chairs, the University, for its own internal reasons should not be allowed to unilaterally sack persons. While (thankfully) Prof. Gopalakrishnan has been reinstated following MHRD’s strong disapproval of the arbitrary dismissals, the trend has only been worsening and there is more silence than before. The purpose of these Chairs is not served and not the slight bit of effort is being made by any authorities to achieve these purposes.

Long way to go to fulfill a purpose

Even though there is good reason to mince words while criticizing the implementation of the Scheme, putting it bluntly would certainly make one conclude that it is not far from a sham. This is obviously not to take away from those Chairs which have been doing good work in contributing to the development of IP Research and Education in their respective Universities and the strong stance that the MHRD has taken (albeit rarely). However, for Chairs in other Universities, even where the motivation is well-directed but curtailed due to institutional barriers, there is a long way to go.

The two posts by CIS which are crucial to this analysis can be found here and here.

IPR Chairs: So much more to be done!
IPR Chairs: So much more to be done!

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